In, Havana Jila (Hava Nagila) I couldn’t resist at least one attempt to overtly blend Jewish and Peruvian music. It is a coastal couple’s dance known as a marinera infused with the very well known Jewish tune, Hava Nagila. During one of my conversations with my parents about Perú, my mother described a Jewish song that was popular in her hometown of Piura, and she began to sing it for us. Of course, she sang the words in Peruvian slang–Spanish, which puzzled me greatly. My father, in the meantime, just laughed... and it turned out that many Peruvians had been reinterpreting the Hebrew lyrics of Hava Nagila: Hava nagila/ v’nis-m’cha/Uru achim b’lev saméach (“Come let us be glad and rejoice. Arise brethren, with a joyful heart.”); became Havana Jila/ Ve mi hija/ Puro ají para el papeo (“Girl from Havana/Look at my girl/ Pure hot sauce for the food.”) — A completely different meaning indeed!
Gabriela Lena Frank